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Road to normalcy

/ 03:33 AM November 22, 2013

In the wake of widespread destruction of property and massive loss of lives in Eastern Visayas and the adjoining provinces, the wily businessman in these places has two courses of action. He can sit out the crisis in a safe place elsewhere and wait until things settle down before getting back to business. Or he can take advantage of the situation and make money from other people’s misery.

The first approach can be justified by security concerns. With the police authorities unable to function effectively in the distressed areas and memories of looting during the week that followed Supertyphoon Yolanda still fresh, the possibility of being robbed by lawless elements cannot be discounted. And what’s wrong with profiting from the shortage of products brought about by a natural calamity? After all, commerce and trade are not meant to be charitable activities. People go into business for monetary gain. Since the law on supply and demand does not make any distinction as to time and place, why not make the most of it?

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Fortunately, majority of the businessmen in the typhoon-ravaged areas think differently. They still believe that business can be conducted, and profits earned, with honor.

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According to reports, in Tacloban City, shortly after relative order in the streets was restored, businessman Kenneth Uy opened 15 rolling stores that sell basic goods like rice, canned goods and noodles at regular prices. These stalls enable the residents to meet their food requirements without having to line up for hours to get relief goods or go to Samar to buy basic commodities.

How Uy’s goods escaped looting would make an interesting story. Either the looters did not know where he kept them (which is difficult to believe in a place as compact as Tacloban), or he has such good relations with his neighbors that they protected his warehouse. Whatever the reason, the fact remains his merchandise are intact and are now being sold at prices before the deluge. By that gesture, he is, in effect, paying forward his good fortune.

Uy’s action is being replicated by other businessmen in Tacloban and other parts of Eastern Visayas. They are picking up the pieces and are not waiting for the national or local government to do that for them. Their action reminds me of the questions that highly motivated people ask in times of crisis: If not now, when? If not us, who? Their response is, it’s now, not later; it’s us and no one else.

Leadership

If the problems spawned by Supertyphoon Yolanda were not as grave, it is reasonable to expect the national or local government, or both, to take the lead in helping victims of calamities get back on their feet as soon as possible. At this stage, the local government units cannot be relied upon for assistance because they are cash-strapped themselves. Every centavo in their coffers would have to be used for the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure.

Neither can the national government be looked up to as a source of assistance because it has its hands full attending to the needs of the typhoon victims. It would take some time before its lending institutions are able to extend financial aid to the affected businesses. Sadly, partisan politics and the scars from past political skirmishes appear to have intruded in the relief efforts. In all likelihood (knock on wood), the same bane may affect future rehabilitation work.

The typhoon victims do not have the luxury of time. Although government help is vital, they cannot wait for the government officials concerned to get their acts together before taking the necessary steps to gain control of their lives again. Thus, the task of restoring normalcy in the ravaged communities at the earliest time possible rests with the private sector, in particular, the entrepreneurs and businessmen.

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Initiatives

For their own good and that of their community, the business leaders in the affected areas have to step up to the plate and participate actively in the recovery efforts. They can put to good use the high esteem they enjoy in their communities. Their financial clout is recognized by barangay and other local government officials. Often, because they have the money, they are well educated and proficient in the management of people and resources.

This should not, however, be taken to mean that they assume the political leadership of their communities. No, that responsibility rests with the duly elected barangay or municipal officials. While these officials have the mandate to lead, the business leaders cannot simply stay in the sidelines and remain bystanders in the rehabilitation of their communities.

That undertaking is too serious a matter to be left to government officials to handle by themselves. The business leaders must see to it that the efforts redound to the benefit of everybody without any political consideration, past or future. The injuries wrought by Supertyphoon Yolanda should not be aggravated by discriminatory treatment on account of partisan affiliation or social standing. Nature’s fury cut across all sectors of society without regard to their social, economic or political status in the community.

In this undertaking, all hands should be on deck. The business leaders’ expertise in strategic planning and management of resources will be useful to the rehabilitation efforts.

For comments, send your e-mail to [email protected]

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TAGS: Business, Eastern Visayas, Retail, supertyphoon Yolanda
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